VisionLink Blog

Ken Gibson

What, Exactly, is an “Engaged” Employee?

Engagement is one of the Holy Grails in business.  Every organization seeks it in its workforce.  Most company leaders can’t define it, but they know it when they see it…and they know it’s what’s missing when the business fails to reach its potential.  Engaged employees are like fuel to company growth and those who aren’t make everything move in slow motion.

For an employee to become “engaged,”  a company must address what I refer to as “The Three ‘Cs’.”  They go like this.

Engagement emerges when an employee feels:

  1. Compelled–the business has a compelling future and the employee sees how his unique ability can contribute to its fulfillment.  This is about shared vision and values.
  2. Clarity–leadership gives employees a clear understanding of the business model and strategy that will fulfill the company vision, what role he has in that plan and what’s expected of him in that role, and how he will be rewarded if he fulfills those expectations.
  3. Connection–the employee feels a sense of partnership with company owners.  Whether or not equity is shared, he  understands there is a philosophy about value creation and value sharing that is fair.  As a result, all stake holders feel connected.

Well, if that’s what it takes to secure an engaged employee, what will the result look and “taste”  like once it’s achieved?  In my experience, companies that nurture engagement end up with employees that manifest that quality in each of  three ways:

  1. Focus–more time is spent on the “best” results that can be achieved, not just good or better.  There is an outcome rather than a task orientation that is evident. The employee “gets” what result the company is looking for and displays a sense of stewardship about it.
  2. Commitment–company leaders see that the employee has taken ownership of the future in a similar way that shareholders have.  It is apparent that it is meaningful to him for the company to achieve its vision because he knows what it will mean to him personally.
  3. Shared Purpose–an engaged employee demonstrates a contribution ethic that extends beyond his specific role in the company.  It is a manifestation of the shared purpose he has with co-workers, other  teams or departments and with ownership.  This means he behaves in a way that demonstrates his understanding of  the interdependent nature of the independent roles throughout the organization.  He understands that today he may depend on someone else, but tomorrow that same associate may depend on him to achieve a desired result in which all have a stake.

In my experience, companies that use compensation as the strategic tool it is intended to be see rewards as one means of smoothing and reinforcing the path to engagement.  For example,  they offer employees a long-term incentive plan that fosters the shared purpose indicated above.  It’s payout metrics are tied to a combination of company-wide performance, team or department performance and individual performance.  Such an approach nourishes a culture of contribution–because all have a financial stake that evokes a kind of “moral” bond with their associates.  If I fail in my stewardship, it doesn’t just impact me and if you slow down, I am also affected.

Leadership, then, should examine its current practices through a kind of reverse engineering process.  It starts by asking whether the workforce is currently, as a whole, manifesting outward signs of engagement (focus, commitment, shared purpose).  If not, it should then ask what can be done to promote a compelling vision, create greater clarity and enable the sense of connection and partnership that are foundational to engagement.  In the process, it should be sure to ask itself whether current compensation practices are more likely or less to promote the outcomes just discussed.

Is it realistic to anticipate a fully engaged workforce?  It is.  I’ve seen it first hand.  For one example, see my blog entitled: “What a Competitive Advantage Sounds Like.”  The concept is further developed in another blog posting entitled: “Compensation and Trust.”  Finally, to learn how to get from an entitlement mentality to engagement, view our upcoming webinar entitled: “What to do When your Employees Act Entitled.” 

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"VisionLink has helped us successfully navigate a number of complex issues regarding our rewards programs. It has dealt with all facets of these varied issues with a high degree of competence, integrity, and straight forward advice. VisionLink's experienced team has consistently delivered first class results in a timely, professional manner and has become a valued Storm partner."

Thomas K. Grzywacz
President/Chief Executive Officer
Storm Industries, Inc.

"VisionLink has helped us successfully engineer a long-term incentive plan that has empowered our company to reward and retain key talent while increasing shareholder value. The knowledge, patience and deep experience of its team members helped us navigate a road that was unfamiliar to us. Ultimately, VisionLink designed a plan that met the high standards of both stockholders and key management employees. We have further engaged VisionLink to address our business succession and transition planning needs."

Reggie Dupre'
Chief Executive Officer
Dupre Logistics

"Over the past several years, National Technical Systems has engaged VisionLink to provide insight and direction on a number of executive compensation issues, as well as a performance evaluation of our 401(k) plan. Under its direction, NTS completely revamped executive level rewards to align with our business growth objectives and the strategic plan of the company. VisionLink's insight and direction have been invaluable. NTS has achieved its growth objectives and our executives feel appropriately rewarded for their performance."

Bill McGinnis
President/Chief Executive Officer
National Technical Systems

"VisionLink arrived on the scene just in time for us. We needed a new framework for our short-term and long-term incentive plans. VisionLink's modeling and forecasting process broadened our horizons and expanded our view of how to use a good incentive system to build, retain and strengthen our senior management team. We remain impressed by their expertise, professionalism and great service."

James Keng
Jimway, Inc.

"Our firm has had a long-term incentive plan for over eight years but we never quite felt like it was firing on all cylinders. We hired VisionLink to re-energize our plan, and they did it! We now have a cohesive awards strategy that's fair to shareholders and valued by our employees. VisionLink's team is technically skilled and very creative. We're happy to recommend VisionLink to firms looking to upgrade their management incentive programs."

John M
FTO Inc.

"Our company was like VisionLink's typical clients. We were great at sales and haphazard at how we compensated our people. VisionLink's process brings great clarity and confidence to our growth planning - and makes compensation a great growth capability."

Dan Sullivan
Founder and President
Strategic Coach ©

"The team at VisionLink helped our company structure a long-term incentive plan that parallels the company's strategy for continued growth as a global market leader within our industry. Their approach resulted in a program that our corporate team and executives embraced on both a professional and personal basis. Through VisionLink's guidance and execution, we were able to create both a motivational tool for current team members and a recruiting device to attract future executive level associates. Well done!"

Mark Rhoades
Fluidmaster, Inc.

"As a leading direct seller of scrapbook photo albums and supplies, Creative Memories has independent consultants across the country. And for over six years now, VisionLink has helped us to stay connected and administer a voluntary 409A non-qualified plan for them. VisionLink has provided support for all aspects of our plan from notification of eligibility through registration and distribution. The VisionLink support team has offered suggestions for improving processes and provided us with outstanding service year after year."

Guy Walker
Creative Memories North America

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